If you’ve ever served on a jury, you’ve heard an acknowledgment of what decades of research has proven. Memory is not static and is editable by ourselves and by others. Eyewitnesses require the same amount of awareness and careful handling as jurors. Yet, even the plausibility of their statements wasn’t given a second thought. Karlie’s case was doomed from the start. Plagued by inexperience and lack of investigatory cognizance, evidence was lost, witnesses contaminated, and the opportunity for quick resolution gone.
As ‘gone’ as the Guse’s described Karlie.
The responding officer was an acquaintance of who should have been the primary suspect(s).
Whether or not Melissa Guse went to school with Officer Scobie is up for debate. What is known is that she did the loan/title paperwork for Officer Scobie’s recent home purchase.
Officer Scobie was the person who questioned the alleged eyewitnesses. His personal relationship, positive regard for the two suspects, and inexperience undoubtedly affected the eyewitness statements. Subtle changes in body language by the interviewer can affect eyewitness statements. The language used to question the eyewitnesses can affect statements. Also, I would bet a large amount of money that Officer Scobie did not present any other female’s pictures to the eyewitnesses when recording their statements either. A garbage dump is less contaminated than those eyewitness statements.
If we back up to the first hours after Karlie’s disappearance, we find that the first interviewer of witness #1 was actually Melissa Guse. The last person to see Karlie…the person who should’ve been the prime suspect was providing the witnesses with details about Karlie’s appearance and alleged demeanor. She introduced BIAS into the eyewitness statements. Their memory was changed when they spoke with Melissa. People want to be helpful and will unwittingly give others what they think they need or want to hear.
The environmental conditions for all three alleged eyewitnesses make their eyewitness statements at best unreliable and at worst ridiculous.
The first witness was sitting in an enclosed hot tub room with steamy windows and claimed to see Karlie from 130 to 140 feet away IN THE DARK. Seriously?
The second witness was preparing for a hike with his kids around daybreak. He was standing anywhere from 90 to 100 feet away and even though he claims to ‘know’ Karlie because he taught at her school (he never taught her directly), he allegedly observed her behaving unusually…and as a teacher (and mandated reporter), HE DID NOT CALL OUT TO HER OR GREET HER. He alleges that the person kept ‘looking back at him’ yet Karlie wasn’t wearing her glasses and couldn’t see well without them. If that person was Karlie, there is no way she could’ve even seen him to ‘keep looking back at him’. It was also not yet fully light outside.
When the teacher came back later that same day and saw the police presence and helicopters flying, did he immediately think, ‘oh my, I saw Karlie this morning’! Maybe I can help!
He slept on it.
He waited another 24 hours and called Melissa Guse before calling law enforcement. She again had the opportunity to give a description of Karlie’s appearance and alleged demeanor thus contaminating his memory. How was the teacher able to reach Melissa Guse by phone? Facebook, of course. After looking over Melissa’s facebook page with information on there about time, appearance, and clothing he decided to call her. Further contamination.
Do you need more evidence of misinformation and contamination? After nearly a year, the teacher (witness #2) now states that he too saw the unknown female carrying a piece of paper. His original statement did not include that information. Witness #1’s original statement did mention the unknown female holding a piece of paper up ‘to the sky’ and ‘looking at the stars’. Witness #1’s statement has changed witness #2’s memory. See how that works? Their accounts are virtually identical several months after the fact when they had some differences in the beginning. Memory does not get better with time. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed studies proving that as fact.
Mono County Sheriff’s office still believes the eyewitnesses are ‘credible’? Really? [smacks forehead]
Witness #3 called days later and reported he saw a person standing behind the barbed wire fence by Highway 6. The posted speed limit is 65 mph. Let me repeat that. He was traveling at 65 mph (at least). I challenge anyone to identify even a close family member under those same conditions. Witness #3’s statement is unreliable.
Do three contaminated and unreliable witness statements somehow make them ‘credible’? Not at all. Are the witnesses bad people? Not at all. The three eyewitnesses may be upstanding citizens but that doesn’t mean their witness statements are credible.
So, where does that leave Karlie’s case? If law enforcement continues to look to the unreliable and contaminated witness statements as proof that Karlie ‘walked away’, her case will likely never have the resolution it deserves.
If law enforcement were to take a step back, do some research on the psychology of eyewitnesses, perhaps enlisting an expert in that field they would realize that the information those eyewitnesses provided was not reliable. They would need to start from square one. That would mean that law enforcement would have to admit they didn’t handle Karlie’s case correctly from the beginning…something law enforcement generally doesn’t like to do.
The decision made will reveal who they are protecting.